We salute BJ Miller: One man’s quest to change the way we die

If you love TED Talks, you’ve probably heard of Dr. B.J. Miller, triple amputee and human-focused hospice care practitioner. He is on a mission to change how we approach dying: giving people with terminal illnesses more control over how they live and how they spend their last moments. Basically, putting a new spin on death with dignity. This is a process near and dear to my heart after watching far too many friends and relatives forced to comply to intrusive treatments that only prolonged suffering and restricted life, instead of being encouraged to spend their last weeks or days doing all that they could to live out loud.

From The NY Times article (emphasis mine):

It wasn’t that Miller was suddenly enlightened; internally, he was in turmoil. But in retrospect, he credits himself with doing one thing right: He saw a good way to look at his situation and committed to faking that perspective, hoping that his genuine self might eventually catch up. Miller refused, for example, to let himself believe that his life was extra difficult now, only uniquely difficult, as all lives are. He resolved to think of his suffering as simply a “variation on a theme we all deal with — to be human is really hard,” he says. His life had never felt easy, even as a privileged, able-bodied suburban boy with two adoring parents, but he never felt entitled to any angst; he saw unhappiness as an illegitimate intrusion into the carefree reality he was supposed to inhabit. And don’t we all do that, he realized. Don’t we all treat suffering as a disruption to existence, instead of an inevitable part of it? He wondered what would happen if you could “reincorporate your version of reality, of normalcy, to accommodate suffering.” As a disabled person, he was getting all kinds of signals that he was different and separated from everyone else. But he worked hard to see himself as merely sitting somewhere on a continuum between the man on his deathbed and the woman who misplaced her car keys, to let his accident heighten his connectedness to others, instead of isolating him. This was the only way, he thought, to keep from hating his injuries and, by extension, himself.

Find out more about Zen Hospice.

Watch B.J. Miller’s inspirational TED Talk:

image courtesy The NY Times Magazine